Monday 16 September 2019

Woman suing HSE after smear test anomalies allegedly missed

Proceedings were issued last year by a woman from the Midlands Photo: Getty Images
Proceedings were issued last year by a woman from the Midlands Photo: Getty Images
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

ANOTHER woman is suing the HSE, a cervical screening laboratory and two doctors in a case where it is alleged anomalies in a smear test were missed.

The Irish Independent has learned of the proceedings, which were issued last year by a woman from the Midlands.

It is among 10 active cases relating to the national cervical screening programme, CervicalCheck.

However, many more cases, some involving gravely ill women, are expected to issue legal proceedings within days as the full scale of the cancer scandal becomes apparent.

Cian O’Carroll, the solicitor who acted for terminally ill mother-of-two Vicky Phelan, said he was aware of a small number of women who “are in a very urgent situation, just as Vicky Phelan was”.

He said the women have substantial care costs, including for “requirements for palliative and end-of-life care in the home, for all of the extra care requirements that one would associate with an advanced cancer, together with putting together a plan to provide for their absence from the family for the future”.

Meanwhile, a man whose wife died from cervical cancer in July last year has said the way the HSE broke the news of her false negative smear test results was “insensitive” and “lacked respect”.

Stephen Teap, from Carrigaline, Co Cork, received a phone call at his office last Tuesday telling him his wife Irene had been given incorrect smear test results in 2010 and 2013.

Speaking to the ‘Sunday Times’, the father of two young children said he and his parents-in-law were asked to attend a meeting at a hospital at 7.30pm last Wednesday.

“Could somebody not have come to my house?” he asked.

“I’m a single parent. It would have been more humane if the GP had told me. Instead, I had to tell him that his patient was one of the 17 women who died. I think GPs are also victims in all of this.”

The cervical cancer audit identified Ms Teap’s false negative test results on July 3, 2017 – just weeks before she died

on July 26. “Irene would have wanted to know,” said Mr Teap. “That’s the kind of person she was. She would have analysed that audit in depth and asked all the right questions.”

Unlike the cases of Ms Phelan (inset) and Ms Teap, there is no suggestion the Midlands woman who has initiated High Court proceedings had information about her diagnosis withheld from her.

The woman had a smear test in 2015 that showed up no abnormalities on its initial review. However, a subsequent review detected cervical carcinoma.

She was lucky in that the cancer had not progressed to a life-threatening stage when she learned she had cancer, and she was immediately able to receive treatment.

High Court proceeding were initiated against MedLab Pathology Ltd, the HSE and the doctors in 2017, but the case is understood to be at an early stage. MedLab has said it cannot comment on matters before the courts.

The case is one of five listed in High Court records where MedLab is a defendant or co-defendant. In another of these cases, against Medlab and the HSE, a woman in the south has alleged she was given the all-clear for three successive years, only for her cancer to be detected retrospectively during an audit. The woman is currently undergoing treatment.

MedLab is a sister company of Clinical Pathology Laboratories, the company which settled Ms Phelan’s action for €2.5m. Her case lifted the lid on a range of concerns about the cervical cancer screening programme.

In recent years, five cases were also initiated in which another laboratory used in the programme, US-based Quest Diagnostics, is a defendant or co-defendant.

Meanwhile, singer Ed Sheeran is to meet Ms Phelan’s daughter Amelia (12) in Cork after hearing about her mother’s case. Ms Phelan said her daughter, a fan of the English performer, was “beyond excited” about the meeting.

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